The harsh police response to the ongoing Jasic Technology workers’ campaign in Shenzhen seems to coincide with a recent surge in swift police intervention to dissolve workers’ collective actions in the past month, and this new phenomenon is not geographically confined to Shenzhen or Guangdong province.
Between July and August 2018, CLB’s Strike Map recorded 12 cases of police intervention out of 279 workers’ collective actions; meanwhile, between January and June, police intervened in a total of 17 cases out of 907. Arrests quickly spiked from 1.8% in six months -or at an average of 0.3% per month- to 4.3% in just one month.
As pointed out in China Labour Bulletin’s 2015-2017 Workers’ Movement Report, published last month, police intervention and particularly the use of force against workers followed by arrests, has traditionally remained low across industrial sectors and provinces. One could in fact argue that police are dispatched to break up workers’ protests only as a last resort.
As illustrated by the Yunyu jewelry and Nanling Toy factory beatings and arrests highlighted below, workers who sought to resolve their grievances within the institutional framework only resorted to public protests when the local authorities failed to help them recover their unpaid wages. Public protests could be avoided in the first place if workers were not owed wages, and if the union played its duty at representing workers at the bargaining table before business owners packed up and left.